A service design approach to frequent attendance in the emergency department


Frequent attenders have been associated with a number of characteristics including: male, out-of-hours attendance, vulnerability, high rates of addiction, mental health problems, somatoform disorder and  chronic medical problems. This variation makes it difficult to study this population and in this case, to design appropriate services.

The main driver for this project was the set-up of a multi-agency working group to tackle the issue of  frequent attenders to emergency departments locally, in particular, to address unmet mental health needs that may be contributing to frequent attendance. This project aimed to contribute to the working group by using specialist clinical knowledge, local data and design concepts to develop ‘personas’ (precise representations of particular people that the design will  address). These ‘personas’ remain throughout the design process and all decisions can be assessed by the design team against these representations to inform service design. Anonymised data were extracted retrospectively from the Addenbrooke’s Hospital electronic patient registration system, and analysed as part of this service evaluation project.

Read more about this project.